The British love a good argument over a pint, and what could be a better topic than which pub deserves to be called the nation’s oldest?It’s a touchy subject – there’s possibly no more cherished symbol of Britain than a snug pub with a fire crackling in the corner.
There are several contenders for the crown of Britain’s oldest inn.
The problem is how to judge them.
“Do you take the age of a given pub from when the current building was built or when the earliest reference to it dates from?” asks Pub writer and historian Pete Brown in his book “Shakespeare’s Local.”
Each of these very venerable British inns has a claim to being the oldest.
Visiting all of them yourself could be even more fun!
1. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem claims to be not only Nottingham’s but in fact England’s earliest surviving inn — dating from 1189.
“An excavation in the 1970s suggested the caves below the pub belonged to the castle’s brewhouse, [built as long ago] as the 12th century,” says Karl Gibson, the pub’s manager.
That would make Ye Olde Trip a watering hole, of sorts, at the time of the Crusades and Richard the Lionheart.
2. Old Ferry Boat, Holywell, St Ives
This riverside thatched-roofed hostelry in rural Cambridgeshire claims to be England’s oldest pub — it certainly looks the part.
3. The Bingley Arms, Leeds
Some date the origin of the Bingley Arms to as long ago as 953.
Known then as The Priests Inn, it first served as a rest house for monks staggering — sorry, traveling — between abbeys in Leeds and York.
4. Porch House, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire
The newest of the oldest pubs in a sense, the refurbished Porch House only opened in its current guise in September of this year.
However, the pub has had several incarnations (or should that be inn-carnations) over the centuries.
“Parts of the Porch House building are said to date to AD947.
5. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, St Albans
This hostelry traces its origins as far back as 793 — the property having had numerous incarnations since then.
6. The Skirrid Mountain Inn, near Abergavenny, Wales
Reputed to be the oldest continuously running pub in Wales, evidence suggests there was an inn on the site as far back as the era of the 11th-century Norman Conquest.
7. The Sheep Heid Inn, Edinburgh
“There’s been a pub on this site since 1360, which makes it the oldest established public house in Scotland,” says the Sheep Heid Inn’s self-styled cultural attaché — aka manager — Simon Walton.
8. George Inn, Southwark
If Britain’s oldest pubs are slugging it out, surely some impressive London contenders are due in the ring.
I am sure that I missed some and curious to see if you know of any. Please provide your thoughts and comments. Enjoy!